The Magic Recipe
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
….. doesn't exist. But magic recipes do .....
I'm often asked how I come up with my architectural concepts and forms. Each time the process is unique but here are a few tools that I've been taught over the years which push my creativity and help me produce sensible, architectural solutions.
But first, remember the initial step is to analyze, study, and ponder the site you are working with before you begin designing. Come to know the climate, culture, politics, and economy of the area. Developing a series of notes and sketches help motivate your discoveries and knowledge. When you think with your hand you come to see things you would have otherwise missed by simply reading or seeing. After you've gathered all the information you feel is appropriate for you to start designing you must also remember your design needs to react to your findings. The research you've done will lead you to ask questions and you'll realize there are problems which need to be addressed and can be resolved through the design. After the research process is done you can begin to apply the various methods of creative production listed below.
1. Build from one plane
My first year of school we started a project with a sheet of paper (you can start with cardboard, chipboard, cardstock, aluminum or any other flexible, foldable material). Our spaces were only allowed to be defined by slicing the paper and lifting/folding the pieces. Super simple but can become complex very quickly depending on how many slices you make and how you shape the slice.
2. Draw a section
Spaces can be analyzed by drawing sections of existing buildings. Go to a building you find interesting in your city or town. Then sit down and sketch a section of the space. What do you draw that can be applied in your design?
3. Take a cube (of any material) and sculpt
There are many materials you can work with. Some are easier than others depending on what tool you use to carve with. Here are some materials: styrofoam, wood, clay, layers of cardboard, stone, plaster, wax, foam, rubber, etc.
4. Create an abstract painting
Painting is a fun chore which gets the creative juices in our brains going (whether we are good or not doesn't matter). Just splatter some paint on canvas or follow a Bob Ross tutorial. As you stroke the paper with your brush your mind will begin to exercise, building the creative muscles on the right side of your brain.
5. Write a story or poem
If you aren't a writer this might be difficult but is a very healthy exercise to try and produce a creative concept. Here is a short example: Rising from the earth are the trees and structures alike, rooted into the mountainous topography of the site. At ground level the body moves horizontally like the sprawling roots and pine branches, then vertically rising with the trunks, the cores of each clustered structure mimicking how the trees reach for the sky.
6. Go on a hike (or explore nature - the great architect)
Nature is my go to whenever I feel dried out of ideas. The energy of my soul seems to feed off of nature. Most of my projects are inspired by the outdoors.
7. Physically visit similar projects or precedents (if possible, otherwise look them up online)
Visiting buildings I love and find inspiring are huge in helping me understand what kinds of attributes and concepts I'd like to explore and input in my project.
8. People watch
This one sounds creepy. But from my experience it has led to so many discoveries. Because as I watch people I notice how they react to the objects around them or if they are fascinated by a building or feature. I first found this to be true while sitting around in a mall when I was sixteen. I was normally observing the area trying to find a store when I saw a child fascinated with this wall that rose high and spewed water, creating a kind of water fall. The child smiled and looked up, reaching for the falling water. It was such a beautiful sight. Ever since then I've kept up the habit of people watching.
9. Take a nap, break, rest, eat and HAVE FUN
I love doing these things so they aren't very hard. But when I'm stressed the lack of becomes a problem. Recognizing the issue helps me to make a planned schedule of when I need to stop working and go to bed or eat dinner. Please don't forget to eat!
10. Talk to a friend about their approach
Talking to others always helps me because I'm insecure about the decisions I make. When they show me their work and explain how they struggled to find the solution but in the end found it I find the motivation to pressforward and keep on keeping on.
Good luck designing + have FUN!